Sunday, November 26, 2006

REVIEW: Roll! They Cried by Soren Narnia


Years ago, pro baseball player Ben “The Blemish” Glinton disgraced himself through a particularly boneheaded performance during game seven of the World Series. Broke and humiliated, Ben now seeks to recapture fame and fortune by staging -- and winning -- a national tabletop "baseball" simulation championship. Accompanied by his biographer (who is seeking an explanation for Ben's foul-ups all those years ago) and the members of his tabletop baseball club (including a three-time Pulitzer-prize winning novelist and a twelve year old genius), Ben sets off on his cross-country quest, with glory, redemption, and $19,450 of his own money on the line.


This is a very funny book. A slapstick buddy film in novel form, Roll! They Cried is consistently good-natured and high-spirited (and would, in fact, make an outstanding film). The humor may be broad, but Soren Narnia carries it off with wit and style. Not only are the jokes easy and unforced, but, impressively for this type of narrative, Narnia also tells a real story, with real characters (broad characters, but characters nonetheless) and a satisfying third act. Roll! They Cried may not be profound – indeed, it actively mocks profundity at several points – but it embodies “wacky hijinks” done right, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

A final word for non-sports-fans: don’t be put off by the baseball framework. No one could care less about baseball than me, but it truly is only a framing device, and enjoyment of the novel does not depend upon an appreciation of (or extensive knowledge about) baseball.


Narnia's writing is thoroughly professional. Stylistically, Narnia writes with confidence and maintains a consistent, light-hearted tone throughout the book. Editorially, Roll! They Cried is equally accomplished. The iUniverse print version of the novel is a tight and satisfying 173 pages. There are no loose ends or extraneous characters or plotlines, and typos are extremely minimal. Narnia’s proficiency is perhaps unsurprising: he is a prolific, experienced author, with at least twelve other POD titles (in a variety of genres) to his credit. That experience shows here.


Roll! They Cried, like most of Narnia's works, is available as of this writing for free at his website. If you like what you're reading after the first few chapters, I encourage you to support Narnia’s efforts (as I did) by buying a copy of the book through iUniverse or Amazon.


I am not a baseball fan but enjoyed Roll! They Cried tremendously. Similarly, I am not a jazz fan, but am a huge fan of Elvis Sinatra's off-kilter -- but thoroughly professional -- pop-jazz-vocal compositions, all of which are available as of this writing for free download from his website. Whether singing about the plight of us exceptionally attractive men (“Handsome Guys”) or about a man in love with a fish (“Pisces”), Elvis Sinatra has the musical and vocal chops of a serious Sinatra (Frank, that is) style musician combined with the wit of Dorothy Parker and the playful darkness of Lemony Snicket.